Over 5,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed by devastating flooding in Sar-e-Pol province, northern Afghanistan. Ali Hakimi/IFRC
By Ali Hakimi
Almost two weeks after flash floods swept through villages in the Sar-e-Pul province, signs of the devastation are still evident. Narrow village roads are covered with debris and the remains of ruined walls from homes and buildings.
Continuous rains, which started on 18 May 2012, coupled with the melting of the huge accumulation of snow across mountain ranges have triggered flash floods affecting more than 80 villages in northern Afghanistan. According to villagers, this was one of the most destructive floods they had seen in 70 years.
It was 11am when people started noticing signs of flooding in Sar-e-Pul city and villages located in a valley at the confluence of three rivers. The water level increased dramatically sweeping down mud and sediment from further upstream.
“When I noticed that the flood water was approaching our village, I tried to inform not only my family but also other villagers. Together with several other men, we got on our motorbikes and went to as many houses as possible. Several families including mine went up to the third floor of the school building - one of the few places that could keep us safe from the flood,” says Abdul Hafiz, a 54-year-old villager.
“The government helicopter attempted several times to move us to a safer area but it could not. We all spent the night on the roof waiting.”
Most of the villages were inaccessible for several days as roads were inundated by mud and the rising water. Despite the obstacles the Afghan Red Crescent Society reached the affected area in the early hours and immediately distributed bread, drinking water and relief items. Red Crescent assessment teams were in the area for more than a week to get accurate information about the situation, affected families and their needs.
Affected families are sleeping in tents because their homes are still buried in mud, fruit trees have been destroyed, and hundreds of acres of farm land have been washed away making the lives of these villagers even more difficult. One of the most immediate needs is safe drinking water.
The spread of waterborne diseases is also a real threat due to stagnant water. In addition to providing temporary shelter, the Red Crescent is working towards tackling these water and sanitation issues in the affected communities.
“Some of our belongings are still buried in the mud from the floods; no dishes, no spoons, nothing. We used wells to get water for drinking but almost all of them were destroyed and because of that the number of diarrhoea cases in the village, particularly among young children, has increased,” says Khair Mohammad, the village leader of Chilan Gom.
“The Red Crescent is the only organization so far that has assisted us with tents, blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets and jerry cans,” continues Khair.
The IFRC launched a preliminary emergency appeal to support ARCS in assisting communities severely affected by the flooding.